Surviving infidelity is a heartbreaking, brain-searing, crazy-making time for couples to navigate.
I often meet couples for the first time in their scorched earth, post-affair period because they need my help as a therapist then like never before.
Recovering from any betrayal of trust is slow and painstaking and the more intimate the betrayal, the more raw the pain, shame, rage and hurt that follows. It takes consistent intense focus, patience and commitment to create a new post-affair relationship if a couple still wants to be together.
Many don’t make it out of the seared earth of the post-affair landscape together, heading off in different directions. Sometimes a partner leaves the primary relationship to be with their co-affairee. However, statistics show that more often than not, relationships that start as affairs tend to shrivel and burn when the daylight of real life hits them. This is because, so often, affairs are motivated by fantasy, longing and yearning for what the other person represents to us. That may actually be about something we long for and need in ourselves, rather than all about who they are.
Frequently an affair is about making a run for freedom, youth, virility or a sense of aliveness. It might be snatching an opportunity to feel hot, passionately loved or lusted for, in a numbed-out existence. At the absolute core, infidelity frequently has less to do with anyone else’s deficits or attractiveness and more to do with a deeply unacknowledged inner want. It is sometimes giving in to something that’s been silently screaming to be heard for a long time. Surviving infidelity may ask partners to find ways to hear one another’s yearnings like never before, and to commit to chasing desires down as a team, instead of solo.
Surviving Infidelity Together Takes Courage on Both Sides.
Understanding the personal ‘whys’ of an affair is important. For an affairee to grow from their experience they need to acknowledge why they behaved in a secretive, damaging way. There are many ways to feel alive, to take big risks, to grow, to have sex, or to leave. So, why did you choose that way?
For the betrayed partner, you must ask yourself:
Do I think I can move past the pain of betrayal?
Do I actually want to?
If desire for the other is absent beneath the rage and shock, it’s going to be very difficult to stay. However, little can be decided in the searing pain of the immediate crisis. You must both give yourselves time. It takes time to adjust to a brave, new relationship landscape. When the shock subsides you can make better decisions about which paths to take.
Understand that you must turn towards one another to heal if you want to stay together, however, you are dealing with VERY different emotional experiences.
Both partners need to look within, to your authentic desires and longings in your new world. However, you are likely feeling very different constellations of emotion, grief and pain. Betrayal can be felt as a deep trauma. Shame and guilt can feel paralyzing.
Seek help and find kindness for yourselves and each other everyday as a top priority in surviving infidelity. After the burning of the old, inevitably comes the shoots of new life. Give it time, give it plenty of the water of compassion.
Just BE the love that you ARE.
About Dr Deb:
Author, psychologist and couple therapist, Debra has consulted on everything from panic to depression, parenting, grief and relationships. She collaborated for four years with maverick minister Dr Francis Macnab on thought-leadership and program creation around wellbeing and spirituality. Their Centre for Wellbeing was a finalist in The Melbourne Awards.
Formerly a yoga teacher, Debra’s work combines ancient wisdom with contemporary psychology. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals in Australia and the US, including Spirituality in Clinical Practice and the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. Her PhD won the Relationships Thesis Award of the Australian Psychological Society. Debra is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen and Thrive Global.